It wasn’t that Genghis Tron didn’t want to keep going as a band. After the release of 2009’s critically-acclaimed Board Up The House, the band could’ve easily forced themselves to write another record in traditional music industry fashion. But the band has always been one whose music needed real passion behind it to maintain its unique mixture of destructiveness and emotionality. After their last tour for Board Up, the guys had to wait for the moment to feel right, simple as that.
“We did decide to take a break from touring — I forget when that was, 2009 or 2010,” says keyboard player Michael Sochynsky. “I think we’d planned to take a break beforehand, but then Converge asked us to do a tour in Australia, and we couldn’t say no to that! So we took that break, and then it was kind of like, Well, so we won’t go on tour, maybe we’ll just write music, and that was when it just sort of fell into the holding pattern. Other things came forward in our lives, we got distracted by other things, and then came that weird thing where it was like, Oh man, it’s been a couple of years since we’ve written any songs. But at no point was it like, The band is broken up. We’re making a direct decision not to pursue the band. “
The wait certainly had a powerful effect on the band. Dream Weapon, the band’s new album, is a much shimmerier take than that of Board Up The House, reveling in its sonic landscapes and moments of drawn-out thoughtfulness. At the same time, the incorporation of new vocalist Tony Wolski adds fresh texture to the album’s dreamy instrumentals, while the live drumming of Sumac/Baptists percussionist Nick Yacyshyn brings an organic atmosphere to the mix. Perhaps most impressive is that due to COVID restrictions, the band recorded Dream Weapon without having ever been in the same room with one another.
“It’s pretty funny — we’re all kind of connected,” says guitarist Hamilton Jordan. “Michael knows me, I know Tony from Detroit, Tony happens to have met Nick before — we’re all indirectly connected, but we have all never have been in the same room together, which is a fucking trip. I hope that changes, but probably not for a while. If I were Nick, I would not want to enter this country anytime soon! And if I were a Canadian border official, I wouldn’t let Michael or Tony over!”
Why now? Why make a new Genghis Tron record ten-plus years after Board Up The House came out?
Michael Sochynsky: We came up with songs that were good, that we could show people and build an album around. There wasn’t any intention in us waiting this long — we had found the inspiration. If something had come together earlier, in 2012 or 2010 or 2015, we would’ve done an album then. But it just wasn’t until when we started sharing these ideas in 2018 that we all got excited about it, and stayed excited about it. And then we made the very explicit decision of saying, Hey, we’re going to do it this time, we’re going to finish this. And once we had the material, we reached out to Relapse to see if they were interested. They said yes, and that was when we knew we were going to finish it no matter what. That was how it unfolded. We’d exchanged ideas in the many years before that, a few that we liked and that ended up on the album, but I don’t think it was until we started writing this stuff that we had a concrete, cohesive idea for the album, and that’s what enabled us to finish it.
Was there ever a definitive stopping point, where you said, Genghis Tron is on hiatus?
Hamilton Jordan: I think at one point, it was 2010, we did realize it was going in that direction. We did make some formal hiatus announcement to let everyone know that even if we did come back, it was going to be a while. But when we did that, we didn’t know. We figured it was maybe at least a year or two, but I don’t think we were expecting ten years.
Did you ever consider scrapping the band, and starting something completely new?
HJ: I never thought about starting anything new, with or without Michael. I never thought about that. It always felt to me that I wanted to write music with him, and it was going to be with Genghis Tron. Our desire to do it never went away — I thought about it pretty often over those ten years, and we talked about it from time to time. There were some moments for me where we were deep enough into the hiatus where we felt some doubt. Like, Jesus, six years, seven years, is this ever really going to happen again? But deep down, what never changed was the feeling that we really wanted to do it. And it was in 2018, when we really felt the spark again. We didn’t even intend to work on music, but we ended up doing that together, and it just felt so right, that we started running with it pretty hard in the fall of 2018.
Do you feel like there was something the hiatus did to your sound? Anything it added, or took away?
MS: I often wonder what the album would’ve sounded like if we had just decided to keep doing it full time, and in 2010 or 2012 had released an album. I don’t know — I kind of feel like it would’ve sounded pretty similar to Dream Weapon. The things that we’re exploring the most on Dream Weapon, or the sort of vibe or environment that we’re using was something that we were trying on Board Up The House, which in retrospect now feels very transitional, with one foot in the static-y grindcore over-the-top area and the other foot in something different, more traditional in song structure, exploring repetitive soundscapes or psychedelic soundscapes. I think we started that with Board Up The House, and that’s the direction we would’ve gone no matter, but it’s impossible to say. We definitely felt free to just write whatever we felt like, and that’s something we definitely had to deal with at the beginning of the process. We briefly felt like, Oh, some of our fans may be surprised by the direction we’ve gone in, some people might not like this because it isn’t what we sounded like in 2006, and we thought, Well, that’s the last thing we need to be thinking about — let’s just write the music that we think is good. What matters is that we like it, and we’re proud of it.
What led to vocalist/keyboardist Mookie Singerman not taking part in this album?
MS: There’s really not much of a story to tell — when things were picking up again, we were sending ideas to Mookie, trying to get him stoked and involved. I think he liked the material we were sending himm but he wasn’t stoked on it in the way we were. Basically, it came to the point where we were going to reach out to Relapse, and he said, ‘Hey guys, I don’t think I have the time to commit to this, so you can go on without me.’ And we said, ‘Okay, that’s a huge bummer but we’re going to go on and do that.’ We’ve still been in touch with him — we’re all still friends. For a while, we didn’t know who our singer would be…
HJ: It ended up beinbg right under our noises. [Converge guitarist and hardcore producer] Kurt Ballou introduced by to Tony in 2015, when my wife and I moved from California to Detroit, and I asked Kurt if he knew any musicians, just to make friends. We weren’t looking for a vocalist at the time because Mookie was still involved at that point, and Tony and I just became friends. And then about six months after Mookie left the project, Kurt suggested, ‘You know, Tony sings.’ Michael and I sent him a couple of demos, and he really liked them. He sent us back some ideas, and it was really crazy the first time we heard it — I don’t know what we were expecting, but it wasn’t what Tony ended up sending us. It was like, Whoa, I never would’ve thought of hearing something like this over our music. But after a couple of talks, Michael and I were super into what he was doing. It started there — we kept trading more ideas and input, and it took a couple of months working together before we found our voice for the album, literally and figuratively. He did an incredible job, and we’r really happy with the ideas he’s come up with. Mookie leaving was a tough thing at the time, but we’re really happy with how the vocals turned out on this album.
Similarly, how did you guys bring Nick Yacyshyn in? Were you always planning to use a live drummer this time around?
MS: I’ve never met Nick in my life — we’re good friends now, and we chat on Instagram every day, but I’ve never met him, and I don’t think Hamilton has, either!
HJ: No, I’ve never met him. It was all done remotely. We were supposed to meet him — Michael and Nick were supposed to fly to Detroit for a jam session something like March of last year, and that was a week after the pandemic kicked into high gear. Nick was going to practice a bunch of times, he was going to come into the studio, but he ended up having to do the whole thing in Canada, where he lives. So that ended up being a creative hurdle, but worked out really well because we had to be super organized and super deliberate about all the arrangements and song structures. As for how it came about, it wasn’t a happy accident sort of thing — we intended to have a drummer for a really long time, at some point starting with the Board up the House tour. Looking ahead to the next album, we thought, we need a drummer the next time around. We’re ready to do that. The first time I saw Nick play, I remember thinking holy shit, this guy could be the guy. And it wasn’t until years later that I got in touch with him about it.
This is definitely a different kind of album for Genghis Tron — what are you most excited for fans to hear on it?
MS: I’m most excited for people to lay back on their bed and listen to the whole album from start to finish on headphones or nice speakers. I feel like that’s the best way to listen to it, and the best way to get what we were going for. People don’t really listen to music like that anymore, they listen to one song on a Spotify playlist, but I think the music makes a lot more sense if you listen to it all the way through and go through all those peaks and valleys. The songs each have their own vibe, but they work well all together.
HJ: Definitely part of our shared vision was to make something you could lose yourself in, and that’s a strong aspect in a lot of the stuff that we both like, that music can be really transportive and creative and can create a sonic world for you to live in or get lost in.
Genghis Tron’s Dream Weapon comes out March 26th via Relapse Records, and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin